Reggae producer and pioneer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, 85


Pioneering reggae artist, producer and songwriter Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry has died aged 85.

Jamaican media reported that the musician died in hospital in Lucea, a town in the northwestern part of the island.

In a series of tweets, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness remembered the reggae icon.

“Perry pioneered the development of dub music in the 1970s with his early adoption of studio effects to create new instrumentals from existing reggae tracks,” Holness noted. “He has worked with and produced for various artists including Bob Marley and the Wailers. , the Congos, Adrian Sherwood, the Beastie Boys and many more. Lee Scratch Perry will no doubt be remembered for his remarkable contribution to the musical fraternity. That his soul rests in peace. “

Born in the small town of Kendall, Jamaica in 1936, Perry dropped out of school at the age of 15. An interest in music eventually brought him to the city of Kingston, where he held a range of roles ranging from record salesman to vocal. Talent. As a singer, one of Perry’s first outings was “Chicken Scratch”, the song from which his nickname is derived.

In 1968, Perry released “People Funny Boy”, one of his first singles as a freelance artist. The track is now considered one of the most important in reggae history, reflecting the transition between Jamaican ska and rocksteady sounds.

In 1973, Perry built his iconic Black Ark Studios. It was there that he began other musical experiments, paving the way for the use of drum machines, sampling and vocal effects. It was Perry who pioneered dub music recordings, creating eerie sound spaces and echoing within his material.

In addition to his long history of solo releases – as well as albums recorded with his backing band The Upsetters – Perry has produced work for such notable reggae groups as Bob Marley and the Wailers and King Tubby. His skills have also caught the attention of artists of different genres. The Clash, who covered Perry’s famous song “Police & Thieves” on their self-titled debut album in 1977, recruited the producer for their single “Complete Control” released later in the year (it would be included in the releases. American Shock).

Around the same time, Paul and Linda McCartney searched for Perry, traveling to Jamaica and recording songs at Black Ark Studios.

In 2019, the former Beatle returned to the experience. “We were addicted to reggae and we went to Jamaica.… We knew Lee Perry from it all. We knew he was one of the great local guys and there was this fantastic little record store called ‘Tony’s’ in Montego Bay – and you would get in there and it would be just records, records, records … I remember one of them was “Lick the Pipe” and I still have that! … We liked it so much that we asked Lee Perry if he wanted to (record with us) … and he did. “

Material from these sessions will eventually end up on Linda’s posthumous compilation album, Great Prairie.

Perry’s reputation as a producer was only surpassed by his famous eccentric nature. The musician often wore shiny and sparkly outfits, while tinting his beard in a colorful way. He regularly spoke of music in mythical tones, connecting songwriting to connecting with a higher power. Perry was also known to ritually blow marijuana smoke off tapes and (later) computer screens while recording.

“You could never put your finger on Lee Perry – he’s the Salvador Dali of music,” said Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. Rolling stone in 2010. “It’s a mystery. The world is his instrument. You just have to listen. More than a producer, he knows how to inspire the soul of the artist. Like Phil Spector, he has a knack for not only hearing sounds that come from nowhere else, but also translating those sounds to musicians. Scratch is a shaman. “

Throughout his prolific career, Perry has released over 70 albums under his own name and produced hundreds more for other artists. According to, he passed away with over 1,000 production credits to his name.

In Memoriam: 2021 deaths

In memory of the musicians, actors, producers and others who died in 2021.


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